Chivas USA and the Philadelphia Union are not rivals, nor is Chivas USA any good. In fact, the “other” team from Los Angels comes into Friday’s game vs. the Union at PPL Park (7:30 p.m., The Comcast Network) with the worst record in the Western Conference.
Normally, then, this might be a blah type of game. But it’s not. It’s actually a game filled with a lot of interesting storylines. Here are five of them:
1. Remember the Farfan twins? Those guys who looked alike and played together for the Union in 2011, 2012 and part of 2013 until one of them – Gabriel – was pulled from the loving embrace of his brother – Michael – and sent to play on the other side of the country? Yeah, well, Gabriel will take the field at PPL Park for the first time since being traded away by that home-wrecking Union manager John Hackworth and will certainly be out for vengeance. And Michael would like nothing more than to destroy Gabriel for that one time when they were kids and he stole his bag of chips (that probably happened, right?). Actually, a couple of days before the game, Michael was spouting out lines like “I’m not going to treat him any differently” and “I don’t think too much about it” … but never mind that! On Friday, Philly will become the City of Brotherly HATE.
2. Another opposing player Union fans will want to watch is new Chivas acquisition Carlos Bocanegra, the former captain of the US national team and the greatest American player whose last name translates to “black mouth.” The 34-year-old defender has been out of MLS for the last nine years but has returned to try to resurrect his career in time, perhaps, for one last shot at the World Cup next summer. And Friday’s game should be his first one back, so maybe don’t boo him quite as much as the other players, Union fans.
3. Speaking of new players, the Union will have their two transfer-window signings available for the first time: German goalkeeper Oka Nikolov and Brazilian defender Fabinho. Both players will likely start their MLS careers in a reserve capacity. But if the starters at their positions – goalie Zac MacMath and left back Ray Gaddis – falter, perhaps they could be called into action. At the very least, it gives the Union a lot more cover on the bench and another Brazilian with one name.
4. The Union will also have a lot more players at their disposal now that Michael Farfan and Danny Cruz are healthy after missing Saturday’s 1-0 loss in Houston. One more player who could return from injury is Kleberson, the other Brazilian with one name who hasn’t played since June 1 because of what was originally believed to be a mild quad strain. If he can get back on the field, it will add a different element to the Union’s attack. If not, the team’s midfield play could still be an issue, even with Farfan and Cruz back in the lineup.
5. Picking up the three points is obviously critical for the Union, considering they’re coming off a tough road trip and are playing one of the league’s worst teams at home. There’s also another benefit: handing Chivas a loss could help Philly’s draft hopes in 2014 as they hold Chivas’s first-round pick from the Farfan trade.